🌯 Dotdash Meredith Reaches Profitability, No Cookies Required; OpenAI Woos Publishers

AdMonsters Wrapper: The weekly ad tech news wrap up
This Week
May 13, 2024
Dotdash Meredith Reaches Profitability, No Cookies Required
OpenAI Woos Publishers
Warner Bros. Discovery Partners with Future Today
TikTok Sues US Government
Was Colossus SSP Caught Slipping?
Did Dotdash Meredith Crack the Code on Profitable Journalism?
The key to monetizing news is a nearly priceless goldmine in this age of digital media. With publications facing the digital graveyard quarterly, having the ability to successfully make your content profitable is essential.

Dotdash Meredith proposes to have found the key to journalism profitability online. Their recent report for Q1 2024 shows remarkable growth, with digital revenue surging by 13% to $209 million. This announcement from parent company IAC hints that publishers won't need Google Chrome's third-party cookies to sell premium programmatically served ads.

Recent data indicates that the publisher is beginning to yield positive results, mainly due to its internally developed ad-tech solution D/Cipher. The tool enables the publisher to provide intent-based ad targeting without cookies, as DDM Chief Innovation Officer, Jonathan Roberts explained at AdMonsters Publisher Forum Coronado.

Dotdash Meredith's digital revenue surge stands out amidst a backdrop where most publishers are grappling with the dominance of video-focused social media and search platforms. But, not all publishers are struggling – The Guardian US and Revolt are prime examples – it's really about understanding your audience and getting the right content. – AB
More Pubs Turning to OpenAI’s Preferred Publisher Program
While OpenAI has caused a lot of commotion since its inception, it seems that more and more publishers are responding to their pitch.

The Generative AI platform has been trying to win publishers over since July 2023, when it struck a licensing deal with the Associated Press. Since then, it has closed on several publisher partnerships with Axel Springer, The Financial Times, Le Monde, Prisa, and most recently Dotdash Meredith.

OpenAI's approach to partnerships is far from one-size-fits-all. Each deal is tailored to the publisher's specific needs, ensuring a unique and beneficial arrangement.

OpenAI's advances and offers haven't always been well received. Back in March, we reported on their legal troubles with the New York Times. The NYT claimed that OpenAI trained ChatGPT on their content, but according to OpenAI, the NYT hacked them.

As well, The New York Times, Vox, CNN, and Reuters have all blocked OpenAI's GPT crawler from accessing their content, and eight prominent newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital are suing the AI company.

While OpenAI's Preferred Publisher Program promises ‘richer brand expression' through content display products, it’s important to note that their data-scraping methodology has raised some legal concerns, adding a layer of complexity to the program. – YY
After Q1 Losses, Warner Bros. Discovery Pivots to Partnerships
While revenue numbers are currently down at most companies, it's no surprise that Warner Bros. Discovery witnessed a decline in ad revenue. Ad dollars are currently down 11% to $1.99 billion.

A major culprit in the media company's revenue decline is cord-cutting, as there was a 7% drop in distribution fees to $2.8 billion. Also, shutting down their regional sports network, AT&T Sports Net, likely contributed to revenue lows.

On the flip side, their D2C platforms saw no revenue loss; advertising grew 70% to $175 million. To make up for some of the lost revenue, the publisher may eliminate around 2,000 more jobs, and raise the price of Max.

The Power of Partnerships

Warner Bros. Discovery is strategically working towards increasing advertising revenue through several partnerships. The media and entertainment company announced three joint ventures, demonstrating their proactive approach to the changing landscape.

Warner Bros. Discovery & Future Today: This union brings new content from Warner Bros. Discovery to its flagship app, Fawesome. The ad-supported streaming service attracts younger and more diverse audiences with a median age of 40.

WBD Connect: Warner Bros. Discovery is doing everything to achieve revenue diversification, even tapping into the programmatic guaranteed space. WBD Connect, a first-of-its-kind marketplace, consolidates ad inventory across CNN International Commercial (CNNIC) and WBD Sports Europe. This deal is a win-win because advertisers see it as a gold mine for reaching audiences across multiple publishers (CNN, Eurosport, Bleacher Report, and NBA.com), and publishers love the idea of reserved inventory as it helps them better predict their ad revenue.

Disney+, Hulu, & Max Bundle: Starting this summer, Disney+, Hulu, and Max will join forces to bring some of the biggest and best brands in entertainment together. This collaboration promises to be a one-stop-shop for advertisers, offering a diverse and extensive audience reach.

Warner Bros. Discovery isn't the only media company placing its bets on the power of partnerships. For instance, Paramount, Tubi, and NBC Universal, recently linked up with Yahoo to enable advertisers to optimize their CTV campaigns with precise targeting and accurate performance insights by leveraging Yahoo's authenticated user data. – YY
TikTok Sues US Government to Stop Federal Ban
TikTok's fate hangs in the balance as the company takes legal action against the U.S. government's mandate compelling its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the platform or face a nationwide ban. President Joe Biden recently enacted a law, backed by bipartisan support in Congress, granting ByteDance nine months to secure a buyer for the popular app, with a possible three-month extension if negotiations are underway.

As stated in their legal filing, TikTok contends that this legislation infringes upon the First Amendment and asserts that divestiture is impractical on commercial, technological, and legal grounds.

But the question remains: why is TikTok the federal government's target? Are they just the first example? While the law targets TikTok and ByteDance directly, it may also impact other apps linked to China, Russia, or nations deemed adversaries by the U.S.

Unfortunately, the federal government has not established federal privacy regulations and many companies have allegedly participated in muddy data collection practices. Kashmir Hill's book on ClearviewAI, "Your Face Belongs to Us," details the mass amounts of data companies scrape from Venmo and social media and sell for a profit. For instance, MegaFace contains a collection of 600,000 American faces from social media, predominantly from events like weddings and children's birthday parties. Megvii and SenseTime, two Chinese firms blacklisted by the U.S. for human rights violations, have accessed this database over 6,000 times.

Hopefully, the government will focus more on establishing federal privacy regulations, as many U.S. citizens, especially younger Gen Z and millennials, are fighting for TikTok to stay. AB
Is Colossus SSP Mismatching User IDs in Bid Requests?
Ad quality and transparency platform, Adalytics, recently reported that among 16 SSPs, Colussus SSP stood out for systematically declaring user IDs in ad exchanges that were a mismatch to actual IDs.

The report revealed that while the 15 other SSPs consistently matched IDs over several months, most impressions bought through Colossus on The Trade Desk were found to have IDs misidentified with data from the browser when the ad was served.

Well, the DEI-focused SSP is not taking these claims lightly, it has blasted back with a plan to pursue legal action against Adalytics for presenting false and misleading information about the SSP's practices. Colossus states that the company does not add or pass any TTD user IDs in the bid request because it transacts via Bidswitch.

“This particular so-called report is riddled with false and misleading information and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of ad technology and many industry-standard concepts including indirect connections, user id, buyerrids, EID, and the process of data flows between partners, among others,” Direct Digital Holdings (DDH), the parent company of Colossus SSP, wrote in a statement to Media Daily News.

Adalytics maintains the report's validity, saying it was peer-reviewed by 14 technical experts. - LdJ
One X Post
Is a Publishers' Homepage Still Important?
The idea of audiences seeking out publishers' homepages is a nice one, but there's little to suggest it's likely to happen to a meaningful extent for the majority of publishers (other than publishers saying it will.)
Worth a Listen
Selling Undertone, Setting up a Family Office, and Reinventing Retail Ads With M3’s Michael Cassidy
Michael Cassidy is an entrepreneur who has started and exited multiple companies, including founding and serving as Undertone CEO for 14 years (acquired by Perion). Hear his journey from the early 2000’s of tech (the wild west!), to exiting, then creating a family office (August Spark) to make direct investments, including purchasing BVA, the largest Shopify Plus agency in the US (acquired by Accenture). Michael talks about his 3rd act, M3 (Make Merchants Money), where he’s helping retailers unlock new revenue streams while creating impactful opportunities for brands to reach audiences when they're most open to new ideas.
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